This is an interactive story. I’ll be writing short bits and then asking for input from readers about where it should go next.
Three days later, she noticed her note was gone, and in its place was a piece of paper folded multiple times. Emily carefully removed the yellow tack, but, taking the note in her tentative hold, it slipped from her shaking fingers and fluttered to the floor. She reached out to grab it, just as the door opened and the vacuum of wind pulled the note out the door, down the sidewalk, onto the edge of the curb. It danced there, mockingly, promising to run, and Emily nearly lost her footing trying to keep up with it. By the time she caught up, it was gently tucked under the shoe of an unsuspecting man preparing to enter the back seat of a very luxurious black car.
In her panic, Emily shouted out to the man, “Excuse me, sir, can you please stop that note!?”
He looked toward her, questioning surprise showing in the creases of his forehead.
“That one, there, beneath your shoe!” she specified, pointing emphatically toward the curb he was just about to step off.
He bent to retrieve it, holding it gingerly between two fingers, and slowly regained his posture as if the movement had pained him some.
“Oh my goodness, thank you,” Emily said, breathlessly.
“Of course, my dear. I hope it was worth the run, this little note.”
“Me, too,” she replied, fixing her gaze on the paper. She reached out, and he placed it in her upturned hands.
“Keep hold of it now,” he said, as he tipped his hat and winked, his eyes twinkling a bit as his face crinkled into a smile. The glimmer of a gold tooth caught the sun, and then he disappeared into the back seat of the car.
Emily held the note to her chest all the way back to the store. It was only a few dozen feet, but it felt as if she’d been on a harrowing journey. Her heartbeat was just now beginning to slow, as she opened the door, its unoiled hinges squeaking slowly as it closed behind her.
Safe behind the counter, she glanced around at her patrons, happily sipping coffee and chatting while nibbling her homemade pastries. One man sat alone at table four, a paper spread in front of him. She took a moment to gaze at him. The curve of his ear, the grizzled white beard and sideburns. She’d seen him here before, but not enough yet to know him by name. And she wondered suddenly, if this could be him.
Placing the note in her pocket, she walked back out around the counter to the floor and made her way toward the man at the table.
“Can I get anything else, sir?” she asked softly, as to avoid surprising or disturbing him.
He glanced up at her, his face opening up into a pleasing smile. “Oh, no, ma’am. I’m fine,” he assured her, “just fine.”
“Alright then, enjoy your coffee,” Emily said, and made her way back to the register.
She pulled the note from her pocket, unfolded it slowly, noticing the perfection with which is had been creased.
I’ve purchased tickets to a local, amateur theatre production of “Arsenic and Old Lace for this Friday at 8pm. Below, is the address. The ticket master will have your ticket waiting at the window. Simply tell them you are meeting Charles. They will know what to do. I hope you will afford me this opportunity to meet with you in person. I have selected a public venue for your comfort.
Emily bit her lip and felt her heart skip a beat or two. A tiny sense of fear washed over her, and her cheeks flushed with heat. But she knew, without a second thought, that she would go. She was too curious now not to. And he was right, the public venue did make her feel more comfortable. She’d never have considered it otherwise.
Emily jumped a bit as she realized the man from table four was standing in front of the register.
“Oh, I’m sorry, yes, yes, how can I help you?” She smoothed her apron and hoped that her blush wasn’t as deep as she feared it might be.
“I just wanted to tell you your shop here is a lovely. It’s hard these days to find a comfortable place to just enjoy the paper and a simple, good cup of coffee. I wish I’d found you sooner.”
He nodded his head toward her in way of appreciation and smiled softly.
“Have a good day, Miss.” He leaned heavily on his cane as he walked slowly out of the store.
Emily called after him, “Thank you so much! Have a lovely day. Come back any time.”
As she tidied table four, folding up the paper he had left, the advertisement for the production of “Arsenic and Old Lace” jumped out at her. And she realized, with a start, that today was Friday.
Emily finished cleaning up the tables, watching as the final customers left for the day. Several called out to her as they left, thanking her for her magic in the kitchen or promising to see her the next day. She had a loyal following, that was for sure. No Starbucks on the corner over was going to take that from her. Not in this neighborhood.
She locked up the store and rushed upstairs to her apartment above. She’d remodeled it and moved in after Richard’s passing, because she couldn’t bear to continue living in their large house without him. The apartment was small, but clean and smart, and certainly convenient.
Emily had no idea what to wear to a local theatre venue, but she assumed that something classic like a black sheath dress and cardigan would do. She wore her hair up in a loose chignon, adorned her earlobes with tiny pearls, and stepped her bare feet into a pair of black kitten heels.
Heart thudding in her chest, she stepped in and then out of the yellow cab that took her to the theatre, just ten minutes south of the shop. She made her way nervously to the ticket booth, unsure exactly how to introduce herself or ask for the the ticket, but she thought back to the instructions on the note.
She bent down a bit to the open slot of the ticket window and told the young woman in the booth, “I’m supposed to tell you that I’m meeting Charles. He said that you would know what to do?”
The young woman smiled brightly. “Yes, of course, I’ll call the usher.”
The young woman picked up the phone and cradled it against her ear, “Malcolm? She’s here.” That was all. But the simplicity of it made Emily’s stomach tighten in knots just like it had when she was a girl, heading out for a first date, not knowing what she was supposed to do or what would be expected of her.
The doors of the theatre opened, and a young man in an black suit walked toward her, his white gloved hand outstretched as he offered his arm. Emily took it, allowing him to lead her into the theatre.
I borrowed a combination of ideas from Mrs. K of Life of a Kinky Wife and Elliott of Life of Elliott. Mrs. K suggested the fly away note, getting stuck beneath the unsuspecting man’s shoe, and Elliott suggested the tickets to “Arsenic and Old Lace.” I loved the detail of both their suggestions, and so I figured out a way to use both. Another of Elliott’s suggestions is sitting on the back burner to be used a bit later in the story.
Where should this story go next? What will happen in the theatre? Is the man from the black car or the man from table four a complication? Or is one of them Charles? Send me a private response so as not to give it away to others. Use the contact button in the navigation menu, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or DM me on twitter @brigitwrites. If I choose your idea, I’ll be sure to credit you in part 3!!